Buying your first home is a very exciting yet stressful time. It's one of the most important decisions you'll ever make and one of the main reasons to seek professional advice. The right advisor will help guide you through the buying process and help you lay the foundation for an enjoyable homeownership experience. The sooner you start working with an agent the better. As a buyer there are typically no costs to hire a REALTOR®. Most agents offer a complimentary new home buyer orientation which should answer most of your real estate questions including how agents work, the buying process, the costs involved, the current market conditions plus much more. Invaluable information if you're a newbie.
The question is: How do you know if the REALTOR® you hire is the best person for the task? Let me ask you a few questions that will help you identify the right agent during your selection process:
* Did your friends recommend your agent? In today's world of social engagement, a great place to find an agent is by asking those you already trust. Find out what they liked and didn't like about their agent and if they would use him/her again. If you don't know anyone who has recently used a REALTOR®, try searching for your agent on Linked-in and see if they've been recommended by anyone.
* Is your agent licensed and familiar with the area? Be sure to check that your agent is licensed to sell real estate and is familiar with the area in which you are buying. Your new home's value could be greatly affected positively or negatively by future plans for the area – something that only a REALTOR® who works in the area might know.
* Is your agent a full-timer or part-timer? The reasons for using a full-time agent are obvious. Imagine that perfect property is listed for sale and you're not able to see it because your agent is teaching kids weekday mornings and can't get time off. Don't make the mistake of presuming your agent is a full-timer. Ask the question!
* How many homes does your agent sell a year? An important number to know. The right number depends on the type of agent you are looking for. If your agent sells 50+ homes a year that is certainly a sign of a wealth of experience however dedicated one-on-one time may be limited. Alternatively, if your agent sells 3 homes a year (the industry average last year at the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver - REBGV) they'll likely have lots of time for you however the chances of an unforseen issue arising will be higher. Somewhere in the middle is typically your best bet.
* How long has your agent been selling real estate? Longer is not always better. Again, it depends on what factors are important to you. While all REALTORS® are required to take ongoing training to ensure their real estate license is in good standing, newer agents (fresh out of school) who lack practical experience are an excellent source for all the latest real estate information and issues that may affect you. They also tend to be packed full of enthusiasm and typically have a little more time for you.
* Is your agent a good negotiator? There are many factors to consider during a negotiation, one of which being the price. If negotiating the lowest price is important to you, one indicator of negotiating ability is to find out your REALTOR's® average list-price-to-sale-price ratio when representing Buyers. Most agents know (and often quote) the number from a Sellers perspective but not from a Buyers perspective (a sign that they may not work with Buyers very often). For example, the industry average for all sales last year at the REBGV was 97% which means if a home was listed for $100k you can expect it to sell on average for $97k. When representing Buyers obviously the lower this number the better.
* Does your agent offer a complimentary buyer orientation? I mentioned this at the beginning. Most agents do but not all. The information you'll receive during this initial meeting will give you confidence knowing what lies ahead plus save you hours of research time. If some type of information session is not being offered - be aware!
Enjoy the journey of home ownership!